An exposome perspective: Early-life events and immune development in a changing world

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Abstract

Advances in metagenomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and systems biology are providing a new emphasis in research; interdisciplinary work suggests that personalized medicine is on the horizon. These advances are illuminating sophisticated interactions between human-associated microbes and the immune system. The result is a transformed view of future prevention and treatment of chronic noncommunicable diseases, including allergy. Paradigm-shifting gains in scientific knowledge are occurring at a time of rapid global environmental change, urbanization, and biodiversity losses. Multifactorial and multigenerational implications of total environmental exposures, the exposome, require coordinated interdisciplinary efforts. It is clear that the genome alone cannot provide answers to urgent questions. Here we review the historical origins of exposome research and define a new concept, the metaexposome, which considers the bidirectional effect of the environment on human subjects and the human influence on all living systems and their genomes. The latter is essential for human health. We place the metaexposome in the context of early-life immune functioning and describe how various aspects of a changing environment, especially through microbiota exposures, can influence health and disease over the life course.

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